Previously I assessed my chances of ending up with an SLI setup and the chances came up as extremely positive. SLI requires that I get cards with blower style coolers. However, when I looked around for reviews and asked others' opinion, I found out that very few people would recommend them. I've mentioned it before as well, but the reason behind this view is that there aren't any GTX 970 cards out at the moment that come equipped with the NVTTM reference cooler because it isn't economical to produce them. This cooler is amazing but the ones that AIB partners are putting in their GTX 970s are pretty much the same as the ones that came with GTX 670 cards, which were terrible.
Those coolers are terrible in two areas. Firstly, they run very loud at higher fan speeds because the fan is small and have to work hard to push the air through the heat sinks towards to back of the card and out of it. Secondly, they don't cool really well because it is a single small fan and the cooler has small intake vents.
I can live with higher temps but I cannot tolerate noise. Noisy computers are ones that are not well thought out and properly built. I don't want to end up with such a PC. I can wear headphones while I play games and be numb to the high fan noise but I cannot say same about my wife and kid. I only get a chance to play games when the kid is sleeping so the last thing I need is the noise of the video card waking him up.
So I decided to get a card a decent cooler that ran quiet. That meant getting a card with an open-air type cooler. I will have issues when I go for SLI, but I hope that adding more exhaust fans will rectify the thermal issues. I can add two fans on the side panel and Silverstone recommends adding them too.
I had a few cards in my list. Cards made by Zotac, MSI, Asus and Galaxy were my options. The Zotac and Galaxy were the cheapest. Zotac is a good card but many people were reporting coil whining with their cards, so I passed on it. The Galaxy EXOC card looked nice but there weren't any reviews of it and a YouTube video demonstrating the loudness of the cooler made me drop it to the bottom of the list. The uploader wasn't comparing the noise of it with another card so it is inconclusive whether it is worse than the rest but I didn't want to take a chance. Then there was the MSI card which was slightly cheaper than the Asus Strix card but ran cooler and quieter than all of these 4 cards. One thing that was concerning was the fatness of the card. My case would only permit cards which are less than 5.7 inches wide. The MSI card is 5.55 inches wide, so technically it should fit but I was unsure if It would permit having fans on the side panel, especially the 120mm intake towards the front of the case. The manual wasn't clear but it seemed that the 5.7" max clearance was with the stock fan installed. The Asus card was also about the same size.
Since the MSI card was performing better in reviews, I ended up ordering it. I probably killed any chance of SLI by making decision to go with a card with a non-blower type cooler. Maybe not. Perhaps adding a couple of more fans on the side would take care of the heat problem. There is no way to tell without getting at least one card in there. But I doubt I would need to add more fans with just one card.
I ordered the card from Amazon, which I was not the cheapest option but safest because I could simply return the card and get a replacement easily. The reason why I was worried that might have to return the card was because of the claims of coil whining observed on this cards. Let's hope mine doesn't have it.